Oct 26, 2009

Tribecards Trouncers (Weeks 6 and 7)

Yeah, so I fell way behind this past week in posting my team's update.  I guess it was part business, part just sulking over the steady decline in the fantasy team's overall performance.

The Trouncers fell last week, stretching their streak to a L3 - that is Lost the last three. Ouch.  In week 6, the Trouncers fell to 8th place out of 10, and since the team I am playing this week already beat me, it is safe to say the Trouncers will drop another place to 9th.  That depends on how the teams below my team do, but I am not holding out hope.

I was hoping the football fantasy team would fair better than the baseball one, but it is not looking so good. Of course, I am not THAT involved or else I would swapping people around, dropping bum players, etc.  Instead, I barely think about the thing until Sunday rolls around and sometimes it is too late by then to make any changes.

I'll let you know the official standings some time after the Monday Night Football game tonight.

Oct 25, 2009

The Trouble with Troubleshooting

Warning: This is techie in nature.  I'm just telling you know so you don't get to the end and say, "Well, thanks, Dave!  I didn't need to know all that!" :-)  Of course, even if you aren't techie in nature, you may either learn a little something along the way or get a chuckle or two.  You just never know with me.

About a week ago, I looked at a Dell computer that had been hit by lightning.  I brought an extra power supply with me to the person's house, hoping the power supply in the computer had taken the brunt of the electroshock therapy.  No dice.  Something on the motherboard was fried (and I'm not talking the good kind of "corn dog fried" here).

I ordered a replaced computer for under $240*, figuring I could swap out parts and call it good.  I was half right.  I swapped out parts, but calling it good was still many, many hours away.

Here is what was happening: I could get the computer to boot in Safe Mode but get a blue screen of death if I tried booting into full Windows mode.

I knew part of the problem was the fact that the old system board was an Intel board and the new one was based on the AMD chips.  I installed the drivers for the AMD board, figuring that would solve my problems.  Nope.  So, I started disabling (or trying to disable) various devices, services, etc.  Nothing I did was working.

Now, I figured the problem had something to do with the fact this drive came out of a Dell.  I happened to have a Dell computer in my truck that has been riding on the rear floorboard for months because I keep forgetting to take it out at work.  I put the drive into that Dell and the computer cam right up, no problems at all.

Mind you, by the time I had even tried this, I had already spent at least two and half hours trying to get the new parts to work together.  So, now I had a path.  I knew the issue was Dell-related.  Or there was some Intel-related issues still running amok.  The truth was somewhere between, or a combination of both, however you want to say it.

I looked in the Windows folder for anything Intel or Dell related, then renamed those items to prevent them from loading.  I rebooted and still had the same problem.  So, I dug deeper.  Turns out there are all kinds of places Dell and Intel hides system files.  In every case, though, I renamed those files and rebooted.

Eventually, I hit the right files in the right place and the machine booted to the desktop with no errors or blue screens!  Well, almost.  I evidently renamed the file that lets Windows know it has already been registered to the user.  Because the new network card wasn't working yet (needed drivers, but I could not install them because windows was not activated - it's a nasty cycle I hope Windows 7 does not have), I had to call Microsoft for activation.  I tried the automated system, but it did not like the numbers I gave it, so I talked with some guy in India (or who had an Indian accent anyway).  After I typed the Windows Product Key from the case, I got a new set of numbers and had the system activated in no time.

After that, I also had two Intel-related error windows pop up.  The system was not happy that it could not find those two files (because I had renamed them, remember?).  Once I knew which files were causing the problems, I removed those from the registry such that Windows would no longer be looking for them.

From there, I installed the correct video, network and sound drivers.  This also let me remove the old network, video and sound drivers that had been in the Dell and were making Windows do all kinds of crazy things since the Dell was no longer a part of the active computing community.

So, where is the trouble in all this?  Mainly in that I am not exactly sure which files were the trigger to let me use the hard drive in the new system.  Does it really matter?  Not to anyone but me.  But, should  come across this again, I would like to know where to start in order to greatly shorten the amount of time involved, you know what I mean?

Sidenote: The End User License Agreement most likely says something about Windows staying with the  hardware on which it was originally installed.  The way I see it, the software was installed on that drive.  I am still using that drive.  Original hardware.

*I ordered an AMD Athlon 2 x2 245 (2.9 MHz dual core), case, power supply, 2 GB RAM, and motherboard from http://www.eCollegepc.com and thought it was a good deal.

(almost) 40 Favorite "Scary" Movies

Call them horror, scary, gory, whatever.  I am only including movies that I have actually seen.  There are a lot of scary movies that have been made, but I just haven't seen them.  These are 40 of my favorite scary movies:

  1. Poltergeist (yeah, it's the clown. Sue me)
  2. Embryo (freaked me out in 4th grade)
  3. Cube - The first time I saw it, I was captivated and freaked out at the same time. I knew then I had to have DVD. One of my all-time favorite movies, though I think I forgot to put it on that list. LOL.
  4. Friday 13th (the original, and only the first one. After that, they were stupid)
  5. Halloween 3 (the only one I saw and the music always reminds me of "every little thing she does is magic"  Seriously, listen to both and tell me it's not there)
  6. Saw (I am lumping them all together here. They are awesome scary/gory)
  7. The Day After (I was a kid when this came out and it freaked me out. Nuclear war fallout. scary)
  8. Carrie (freaky bloody chick. 'nuff said)
  9. Pet Semetary (Shan had a cat that looked just like the one in the movie)
  10. "The Doll" - not a full movie, but scary enough for me. Freaky!
  11. Funny Games (the original, not the remake. scary neighbors are freaky!)
  12. The Blob (80's version) - Another reason to stay out of the lake.
  13. Nightmare on Elm Street (the first one, original only. Remakes suck, as do sequels in most cases)
  14. The Omen
  15. Brainstorm - Christopher Walken and a bunch of guys make high-tech sensory playback "tapes."  It scared me to think of what people could do to themselves with computers. I loved it!
  16. Amityville Horror
  17. The Brood (I saw this on HBO or something as a kid late one night.)
  18. Videodrome (As an avid television watcher, it just freaked me out)
  19. The Ring. Who knew a sealed well could scare the tar out of you?
  20. Jaws. Again, as a kid, I wouldnt swim for months after this.  I just realized I saw most of these as a kid.  How did THAT happen!?
  21. The Shining. Jack Nicholson. 'Nuff said.
  22. Child's Play. Yeah, I have a problem with freaky little dolls that attack.
  23. Alien. Holy cow that was a big scary monster.
  24. The Grudge - one of the weirdest movies I have ever seen. Freaky kids.
  25. Psycho - The original. The fact it was black-and-white only made it scarier.
  26. The Birds - something about animals turning tails and attacking people is just scary.
  27. Henry: Portrait of Serial Killer.  Two guys get off on watching the people they videotape killing.
  28. American Psycho. I actually liked this a lot.  It was bizarre.
  29. Blue Velvet. Yeah, it was sexy, but man it was outright crazy!
  30. Cabin Fever - I saw this on IFC or something. It is "B" for sure, but the whole "dogs-eye-view" things was just priceless horror.
  31. Fatal Attraction. I had gone out with a girl that I was pretty sure the movie was based on.  Of course, most guys think that.
  32. Single White Female. In the same vein - freaky chicks, man.
  33. House of Wax - the remake. Okay, yeah, that one bugged me.  Wax figures are freaky. Period.
  34. The Sixth Sense - I made the mistake of watching the extras on the DVD before the movie, so a lot of things were 'spoiled.'  The girl who had been poisoned by her mother though... The first time I saw it, it freaked me out.
  35. Ginger Snaps
Okay, well, I came close.  I'm sure I could come up with the last five, but I see now it would be really stretching it.

Oct 22, 2009

Notes from the E-Rate Technology Summit in LR

These are my (very) rough notes from my recent visit to Little Rock for an E-Rate Technology Summit:

John Ahlen, Director, Arkansas Science and Tech Authority - 

Abilene Paradox - people do things as a group they would not do as individuals.  

Stockdale Paradox - it was the optimists who died in war prisons - we must never confuse our faith that we will prevail in the end with the brutal facts we are faced with in reality.

world is flat, blah blah.  "Did you know?" video.

Beloit college mindset list.

Stuart Elliot whitepaper "Projecting Impact of Computers on Work in 2030" - workforce skills for 2030 - language, vision, reasoning, movement - speaker is talking about a PC that will do this. He is saying things based on the whitepaper.  Theoretically, 60% of all occupations will require computer experience for employees.

EAST project.  Tim Stevenson, creator of EAST.  

john.ahlen@arkansas.gov (http://www.asta.ar.gov


Rick Martin

Wireless with Erate.  Networking, etc.

Be sure if you pay for installation of cable, specify that all cables are labeled!  Document the wiring in addition to labeling.

DIS can help spec out cable jobs, determine quality of job.

Switches - Managed is ideal

Stack-type switches are generally well-to-do in schools.  Most stacked switches have a proprietary cable for the back to perform stacking without taking up ports on the front.

In managed environment, you can view stats on the switch and find problem areas on your network.  Also can look at your configuration of ports - speed, up/down, duplex, etc.  Can also use command line interface to see information.

Layer 2 - 1 large flat network with one broadcast domain

Layer 3 - divide your network into smaller broadcast domains, ability to subnet IP's and manage multiple gateways (like what Doug /jeff?/ is doing on his network).

Power over Ethernet - used mainly to power remote devices (IP Phones, WAPs, Cameras, etc).  

Building to Building connections
--Fiber is best
--Wireless bridging
--Copper (direct connect is bad choice because of electrical issues)

New Building
--Get Network Infrastructure in the plans early
--Wiring closets
--Switch infrastructure
--Cabling ducts
--Wiring Infrastructure
--Cheaper to build into plan than to add later

Refer to Arkansas Utilities Commission requirements for space requirements, ventilation, etc.


The connected generation sees technology as their oxygen.

Wireless more secure than the jack in the wall at most places.  

Unite all services into one network via IP.  

Wireless virus protection and intrusion detection options.

802.11n - more streams and multipaths

Cisco M-Drive with ClientLink - delayed dual transmission provides better signal strength to legacy wireless clients (a/g).  

Detect rogue APs and clients.  Secure guest access.

RFID - passive and active types.  


Tandberg Content Server - videocasts converted into mpg, etc for on-demand, delayed playback on various devices.

kc3 - kids creating content - tandberg contest.

http://kc3.cilc.org - registrations open to nov 20 - get your kids to participate now!

DIS - broadband optimization
Don McDaniel, DIS

Three sites in pilot:
--Governor's mansion - frame relay t1
--Vilonia School District - 4.5 ATM IMA
--DHS Pine Bluff - 3M ATM IMA

Cisco was chosen for WAAS

(note pricing removed for public consumption)

Schools may go directly to DIS for this if they are willing to pay for the service.


Tech plan addendum and deadline - Dec 11, 2009 deadline
--new products or services reported in the funding year 2010 eligible services list.
--new construction or renovated that are not listed in 2009-2012 approved plan.
--Non-instructional facilities not listed on the approved list

Must be completed online, but signature page must be mailed in.

Form 486 08-09 due 10/28/09

471 LAB Dec 1-3, register online

Form 479 - Feb 2010

Tech plan 2012-2015 start in january 2010 for submission online spring 2011

9-12 november 10th, advanced e-rate video conference.  


Erate P-II
--end user equipment not eligible
--two-in-five rule
--pro-rate ineligible portion 

sld products list
py 2009 eligible services list

what is discount?
-group of schools
-individual schools

where is district in 2-in-5? Watch this! Only get funding twice in five years.

Oct 20, 2009

Time keeps on tickin, tickin, tickin...

Wow, I cannot believe how quickly time slips away from me!  A lot of that is because of how busy these past few days have been.  Monday, we had yet another break in at work.  It's gotten to the point that I bought a security system to install at work.  We're putting in up to 12 cameras with a DVR.  The cameras are all indoor/outdoor and infrared, so we should be able to at least get anyone coming in on video.

Today (Tuesday), I got the first camera up and running, I had to, er, um, test it, so I did a few wild gestures in order to trigger the motion detector.  Of course, I could have just walked in, but what's the fun in that?  Well, after we figured out how to replay the video, my co-workers said we should put it on youtube, or America's funniest videos... Great.

Jeff (from Hope schools) and I helped during a workshop today in which administrators received iPaq handheld Windows machines.  Things went pretty well, except that the software they are using (CWT from Teachscape) has a SERIOUS design flaw!  The program does not actually fully stop running when you click the "X" to close out of the program!  What the heck?  Tech support told us that the users MUST use the Actions > Exit, then Actions > Exit again to fully close out of the program.  This seems to only affect the Windows mobile version of CWT.  The "fix" is to go into the "running programs" setting and end all programs, then the software will launch as it is supposed to.  OY!

After I left there, I ran over to the early childhood classroom because they were having trouble with their Smart Board.  Turns out that a USB extender that was under a carpet behind some equipment became disconnected.  Nice, easy fix!  I love those!

From there, I ran over to Spring Hill though I had forgotten what I was going to help with.  I was quickly brought up to speed: two routers, two networks, want to be on one domain.  That is a little beyond my expertise, so I called Jeff for some help and insight.  It turns out, this is a bit more complicated that we anticipated because of the way the state has things set up at the two different locations.  My next step is to call in the folks at DIS and get them to help us out.  They set it up this way, they can help us get it working correctly, right!?

Shan was asked to lead a bunch of girls (who have NEVER twirled batons before!) in a program for Homecoming.  She has been staying after school this week for Friday's big event.  She and Michelle worked out a routine, and tonight (at home) she showed me the routine set to music.  It is WAY COOL! The girls are going to go NUTS when they finally put the routine to music.  They all look like they are having fun!

Need a reason to have Twitter or Facebook for your school district?  How about this: create a group, then have faculty, staff, students, parents, etc join the group.  Use the group to post announcements of upcoming events, network status (campus down, issues, upgrades, etc), or other district news.  Keep the posts short and sweet with links (if needed) to more information.  Include pictures as applicable.

An extension of this would be a tech-specific twitter/facebook group for your district.  In this group, include key campus personnel, all the techs in your district, perhaps your service area technology coordinator.

This idea is not mine, but is rather the brain-child of Jeff at Hope schools.  He comes up with some seriously great ideas!  I just try to help implement them. :-)

Oct 18, 2009

Tribecards Trouncers (Week 5)

Yes, once again, I am updating you on my fantasy football team on the day the new week starts.  I am really going to have to work on that.

The Trouncers fell to the Cardiff Giants in Week 5.  It looked close for a while there, but in the end, the Trouncers couldn't pull it off.  This drops the team to 7th place with a 2-3-0 record.  There are four teams in the league with the same record, but since points matter, the Trouncers sit squarely near the bottom of the pack.

The Cardiff Giants and the Turkey Buzzards remain the only two undefeated teams in the Super Secret League, while NABALY remains the only team yet to win a single game.

This week, the Trouncers face the Seymour Bengals.  The Bengals are 1-4-0 and are in ninth place in the league.  They are picked to beat the Trouncers, but Tribecards is hoping to grab a win here and help move themselves up the list.

Only time will tell.  And hopefully this week, I'll do better at posting an update.  I wouldn't bet on it, though.

Muddy Photos

Here are some of the pictures Tyler took with his phone during our "stuck-in-the-mud" adventures.

Saturday in the park

No, it wasn't the fourth of July, and well, really, this post is more about Saturday than it is about any park.  Actually, it's not even about a park.  I could have just as easily titled it "Saturday Night Fever," but then that would have sparked a discussion about fevers, of which I have none, so even that would not have been totally accurate.  Are you with me?

Kay and Linda (Shan's Mom and Aunt, respectively) had tickets to attend a fund-raising event for Rep. Mike Ross with special guest President Bill Clinton.  Shan wanted to do some shopping for Emily, so we all piled in the van and headed to Hot Springs (which is then a discussion about Hot Springs National PARK, and thus, there *IS* a park in the post.  Thank you, thank you very much. Uh-huh!).  The event was at the Convention Center, and I had been there this summer for a distance learning conference.

On the way up there, Kay mentioned something about a band.  I said that I had read Jeff Madlock's Facebook post about having two gigs 100 miles apart and wondered if his band was playing for the shin-dig.  Jeff is the technology coordinator for Hope Public Schools, and is one of the most versatile, and crazy, guys I have ever met.  Was it his band?  Read on to find out.

Between the dropping off and picking up, Shan, Emily and I headed for shopping.  First, we made a stop in at Ci-Ci's Pizza for supper.  I am a big fan of Ci-Ci's!  It's been a LONG time since I had eaten there, so we pulled in and grabbed a bite.  If you have never experienced the place before, it is a buffet pizza place.  No menus.  You go in, pay, and eat.  No servers to deal with - just pizza and the best desserts ever!  Hot cinnamon rolls things, brownies... Oh, yeah.  They create all kinds of pizzas, so you never know what's going to be on the buffet and not everything is great (to me anyway).  Shan tried a chicken alfredo pizza that she didn't care for, and I tried a taco pizza that was actually pretty good.  Of course, they had cheese, pepperoni, supreme, and who knows what else - all for the eatin!

While we were eating, we watched the Arkansas Razorbacks on TV score a touchdown.  If you saw or heard, you know that we lost to the Gators by a field goal.  Some would say that is a disaster.  I say that's pretty dang good, considering the Gators are #1 and everyone in the world thought the Hogs would get their butts handed to them.  Instead, Florida struggled to beat us.  It's one of the rare times when you can feel okay about a loss.  At least, in my book.

After we ate, we hit the mall.  Emily picked up some very cute boots with fur on the top.  They also have silver peace signs on them.  Emily is BIG TIME into peace signs.  I hope this doesn't mean she is heading down the path of "peace, love and many groovies."  Basically, I'd like her to steer clear of anything remotely akin to "Jenny" in "Forrest Gump!"

We shopped around some more, stopping by the Hallowen shop to find a costume for Emily.  Somehow she decided she wanted to be Daphne from Scooby-Doo.  Holy crap, she *IS* heading down that road! LOL!  We couldn't fins a costume in her size, but I did manage to find a "King of Pop" costume kit. 

I have ben debating whether or not to dress up as Michael Jackson for Halloween.  I would love to do it as both a tribute to him and for the goofy fun of it.  My biggest problem is one of appropriateness.  Is it right to dress up as a guy with peculiar behavior when it came to children in general?  Then again, people dress up as Jason, Freddy Krueger, and even the clown from Saw, so, why bother going down that road, right?  If I decide to dress up as the King of Pop, I'll be sure to have pictures taken.  If I am going to scare local kids, I might as well scare the rest of you with it, right?

Emily picked up a Bobby Jack sleepover monkey.  She made a deal that if she got the monkey, she would have to sleep in her own bed (she likes to crawl into bed with us during the night).  We gave her a "fre night" for Saturday, but starting tonight, all bets are off.  It is going to be a very tough time for Emily and Shan. Maybe I shold have picked up a monkey for both of them.

We piddled around for a bit and then decided to make our Wal-Mart run while we waited for Kay and Linda to call us back.  Of course, we got the call at about the halfway point in our grocery shopping.  Luckily, they weren't in a hurry to go, but just wanted us to know that they were ready whenever we were.  We finished our shopping and headed back to the Convention Center to pick them up.

Kay got some great pictures, so I am hoping to borrow them and post them here later.  Whether I am fan of Bill Clinton (and/or Mike Ross) or not really has little to do with my wanting to post the pictures.  The fact that Clinton was one of Presidents is the main reason.  Politics aside, I think it is very cool when someone you know gets that close to a former leader.  Of course, Shan has a picture of her with Clinton from his Governor days and she was part of Girl's Stae or some school-related program.  Maybe she was a Page or something.  Well, hopefully, she will enlighten you when she reads this and leave a comment to set me straight. 

And, as for Jeff playing at the Ross/Clinton event.... Yes!  It was his band there.  Kay said she went up to him and asked if he was Jeff.  When he said yes, she asked if he knew my name.  He asked Kay if she was my Mom.  "Even beter," she said, "I'm his Mother-in-Law."  That is funny!  Here is a photo of Jeff I found online, but it pretty much explains it all:

Oct 16, 2009

Using a Mac, learning more about the iPod Touch, and being sick

I broke down and told the boss that I was taking one of the MacBooks home with me to learn how to use it, troubleshoot it, network it, etc.  I decided I would NOT put Windows on it, despite my massive desire to do so.  And, let me tell you, it's been heck.

I started out by trying to get the Mac to print to the shared printer on my Windows machine.  The Mac sees the printer, but can't find the driver I installed for the printer, so I can't print.  Not a big deal, right? I'll just try another one.  Wrong.  So, I will keep working on that until I figure it out.  Turns out at least two techs are watching me for updates on how I get it to work (or *IF* I get t to work!).

At home, the Mac's iTunes sees my media server and lets me play music in iTunes from it. Great! But, he machine itself can't seem to find the network share with the music in it, so I cannot copy the shared music to my iPod. Not so great.  In the meantime, I hooked my iPod Touch up to my PC and everything works just like it should.  Not very promising for the Mac of things, let me tell you.

Also at home, I have a Netgear IP network print server and all the PCs can print to it just fine.  The Mac? Uh, no.  I am installing updates on the Mac, so we'll see if somewhere hidden in those updates we find a way to print to the Netgear (with HP 1012 attached).  I did some poking around, and evidently there is an open source set of DMG files I can download and install to get the 1012 to work.  Seriously?  Yeah, I'm hoping the update thing works for me. :-)

Speaking of iPod Touch (which I will refer to as iTouch because it's easier for me and I don't care if it is right, wrong or otherwise), I got one the other day to use and play with.  It's very cool, but I had limited use because our DSL has been out since the downpour of rain.  Actually, it turned out to be because lightning hit the line and fried the port our connection was attached to at the main switch in town.  That can't be good, but it is better than our house burning down!

So far, he only apps I've used are "Band" and "Skeeball."  I will be adding more, preferably free ones, in time.  BAND gives you various instruments you can play and record.  There's even an audience for those that need a little ego boost.  SKEEBALL is just what it sounds like.  You can use your finger to launch the ball, or even better, you can flick the iTouch and "roll" the ball that way!  SWEET!  It is very addictive!  Or, well, it is for me anyway.

If you're reading this and have some ideas or suggestions for cool apps to use/try, let me know!  I am willing to experiment with just about any app, though I do prefer the ones with no price tag on them.  I've seen a bunch of different ones on friends' devices (a flatulence machine, a lighter, iBeer) that are not up my alley, but hey, I'm willing to at least READ about anything that gets suggested.

I left for work this morning, ready to help a district with network issues.  I got to the gas station, filled up, and then something went wrong.  I got pretty sick very quickly.  I decided the best thing to do was come back home and see where things went.

I took some medicine and laid down for a while after letting everyone know I was sick (work, family).  The DSL guy called so I talked with him and explained what was up.  He did his thing and after he left, I laid back down again.  As of 11am, I feel better, not great.  I have a sore throat and my head is a bit woopy, but no fever!  I realize you may not want all of that, but there it is. LOL!

Oct 14, 2009

When it rains, it pours

It's been raining off and on around our neck of the woods for several weeks now.  Yesterday (Tuesday), things finally caught up to us. 

I hopped in my truck, truned it on, and watched as Shan pulled her van forward through the yard and tried to make the right turn that leads up the hill.  And then I watched her go nowhere fast.  Nowhere except DOWN into the ground beneath the tires.

As the rain fell, I tried to get her unstuck, but it was no use and we were all running late at that point, so everyone hopped in my truck and off to work/school we went.  The rain kept coming and coming.  Flash flooding broke out all over the state, and schools were sending their kids home early.  bus routes that normally take 45 minutes were taking two and a half hours, if they were completed at all.  The roads were washed out, trees were down from sinking soil, cars thought they were boats (and were proven wrong).

I was working at a district inside an all-stone structure, so I missed the many calls from Shan, asking me to come get her from school.  By the time I got done at the district, she had decided to ride with Valerie and take the kids on to gymnastics for the evening.  Tyler and I would get her van out of the mud.

That was the plan, anyway.

Shan's Dad was home when Tyler and I drove up and we talked a little about how to get the van out of the mud.  He got called out to work on some of the county roads, so Tyler and I ate supper then headed outside to see what we could do.  I picked up the ramp Shan's Dad uses to load his four-wheelers into his truck and I placed it in front of Shan's front tire.  A little back and forth and I managed to move the van.  Notice I did not say "free the van."  I moved it from one stuck position to another.

Tyler and I pondered that for a few moments and eventually Shan's Dad came back.  At some point during this, my Mom came out to help us.  We tried to push forward, backward, whatever we could do, but nothing was working.  Finally, Junior (Shan's Dad) called a friend to see where we could attach a chain to the vehicle.  We opted to try and pull the van backwards onto "drier" ground.

Junior got his tractor behind the van, hooked up the chain, and hit the gas.  There are no good words to describe what happened next, but I will try.  The back tires spun in place, churning up mud.  As he tried to remedy the situation, Junior alternated driving the tractor back and forth on the ground.  This only made the tires dig deeper into the ground.  He tried to use his front-end pick (I have no idea what it is really called, but it's a spear with which he can haul one round bale of hay), to add leverage to the situation.  This simply made holes in the ground in front of him while the wheels spun in the back, and the tractor sank lower and lower into the ground.

By this time, Shan's Mom (Kay) came out and asked if that was where we had decided to put the swimming pool.  I think we are halfway there!

Finally, tired of ditch digging with tractor tires, Junior called Janette's husband, Bill to see if he would bring his four-wheel drive tractor to get everyone out.  A few minutes later, Bill came up with his tractor.  We debated quite a while before finally agreeing to hook up the front of the van to the chains.  There is a bar that runs front-to-back under the fornt end of the van, but we weren't sure if it was something that could be pulled on.  We were about to find out.

We had about 50 feet of various chains linked together between the van and the tractor.  Tyler and I were covered in mud and muck from our varied previous attempts, and from putting the chains in place.  It was still raining, and everything felt like we were walking on recently-Zamobinied ice.  Tyler hung in there though.  Junior said, "That's the most work I've seen that boy do since he got here!"  It was good to see Tyler was earning his keep in Junior's eyes.  It's always good to know you've done something that makes your grandpa take notice.

Bill looked at me and said, "I'm going to ease you out of there.  You won't even know I'm pulling you."  I didn't see how that would be possible, given just how stuck the van was.  He was right.  I got behind the wheel, put it in drive and pushed on the gas.  At first, the van didn't want to come out the mud.  It liked being there, all wet and cool and all.  This was no time for a spa treatment!  Without so much as a lurch, I slowly came forward, then slowly came up out of the ground as I moved, and finally, I could drive on my own.  It was as if I had driven out all by myself.

We got the van out of the way, and now it was time to get the tractor.  Bill backed up and we hooked Junior's tractor up, then got out of the way as Bill pulled forward and Junior made the tractor tires spin backwards.  He was doing his own version of the moonwalk, only he wasn't going anywhere.  Bill's tractor lurched, and suddenly he was no longer restricted by the weight of the other tractor.  The chain had tightened, then like a piece of thread, it snapped!  Those of us watching saw what was happening and we got out the way fast!  The chain broke at a weak link.  Luckily, the tractors were not going fast enough or pulling quite hard enough to make the chains do much slinging about, so no one got hurt (or even touched).

We got rid of the broken chain, and Bill repositioned his tractor for another go of it.  This time, Junior's tractor pulled out of the mud backward.  As it did, the front end dipped down into the valleys made by the rear tires.  I thought the whole front end was going to fall into some abyss!  But, Bill kept pulling slowly, and Junior's tractor came with it.

Bill had saved the day!  Junior said he would take his bucket loader and smooth things out after the ground dried up.  I said, "You mean in March?"  And we both chuckled a bit.  He said, "We sure made a mess," to which I replied, "Yeap, but we sure had fun doing it!"  We sure did.

Tyler took pictures with is phone, so I hope to post those sometime soon.

Oct 12, 2009

q5srg8wvyf is gibberish to you, right?

So, I found a blog post (http://www.chrisbrogan.com/27-blogging-secrets-to-power-your-community/) with suggestions on how to improve one's blogging.  Most of the ideas apply to someone in it for the money, but I liked the idea of claiming my own blogs on Technorati.  So, the code (q5srg8wvyf) you see is my claim code that I had to put into a post inn order to stake my claim.

In retrospect, this is kind of a pain. :-)

Oct 11, 2009

Trouncers Fantasy Football Update (Week 4)

Been a long week for Trouncers Manager --David, so this update (Week 4) comes just in time for this week's games to begin for Week 5!

Basically, nothing changed (or very little) in the way of standings. The Trouncers are still in the middle of the pack at 2-2-0 in fifth place. The league has two teams that are 3-1-0 (Leprechauns and "!"), while only two teams are undefeated (Giants and Buzzards).

As fate would have it, the Trouncers are playing the Giants this week, hoping to add a loss to the Giants record. The Trouncers are predicted to win, so we will see how things unfold during the day.

The Buzzards, the other undefeated team, are playing against the Leprechauns. The Buzzards are also predicted to lose, so we could see the two undefeated teams fall away this week.

If the Trouncers can pull off the win, they might be able to shift up to the fourth position in the league, but the top three are pretty well set this week. A lot of it depends on what the "!" do, though, and just how many points the Trouncers can rack up.

The Trouncers are actually in bad shape when it comes to the points. If the league were based solely on points, the Trouncers would find themselves currently in 7th place (out of 10) instead of 5th!

Here's hoping this week brings some big points from Big Ben, helping the Trouncers grab some of those coveted fantasy points and a big win.

Oct 9, 2009

TIE Training for Friday, October 09, 2009

My plan for this is to do what I did at NECC a few years ago: I will update the blog semi-live throughout the day. All updates will be shown at the bottom of this post as I update. The best place to get quick up-to-the-minute updates is on my twitter: http://twitter.com/davidinark.

For starters, TIE (http://tie.k12.ar.us/) is a project started by the education service center where I work and stands for Technology Infused Education. We are training teachers, techs, and other school personnel to be trainers of technology infusion and integration.

8:00a CST - George Lieux and Harry Dickens are presenting the state's subscription to http://www.nettrekker.com/. Every public k12 school in the state has access to a very cool search engine and information organization tool. One of the features is the Timeline which shows people, events, technology, etc within time periods the teacher/student selects. Students can then determine things such as "Would Abe Lincoln and Pable Picasso have known each other?" And then they can see when those people lived and look for overlap (or lack thereof).

8:30a CST - The TIE groups broke up into two groups. I am in the Tammy Worcester workshop. We just spent 30 minutes getting everyone hooked up. Evidently, the network here is not configured to handle this many laptops. We were able to get folks online, though, so now we are learning some google tools.

Google has advanced search features that let you pick file types, so you can limit your search to, say, just PowerPoint presentations on your topic (like "simple machines"). You can also add "jeopardy" to the search and find classroom-ready games about your topic!

iGoogle is a feature that lets you create your own custom 'landing page.' I've used it before, but never really liked what it does. I know a lot of people do like it, I just happen not to be one of them. (http://igoogle.google.com/).  You can use themes, add games, weather, sports, etc.

Need a reader for RSS feeds? Use http://www.google.com/reader and set one up. RSS allows you to subsscribe to certain webpages and blogs just like you might subscribe to a magazine (only RSS is free). So, you get updates without having to visit each and every one of your favorite sites. Instead, add the feed links into the reader and get everything by just going to google reader (or whatever SS feed reader you want to use).

Next up, blogging with blogger.com. In case you don't know, Blogger is hosting this site here, and is my primary choice for my other blogs, but there are other blog hosting sites out there. A lot of my friends use wordpress.com instead because they like the features. I say give each a try and see which you prefer. I actually have a wordpress account/site, but I like blogger for what I do. You can also add an iGoogle gadget to blog directly from your iGoogle page.

Http://www.vocaroo.com/ is a site that lets you record voice right into a site and then link to it or embed it in your site.

http://classtools.net/ has a random name picker (called "fruit picker"). Enter names then spin the wheel to have a name randomly selected to answer questions, etc. You can embed it into your blog/site, too! It can be used for ANY kind of list and have an item chosen randomly (states, people, facts, etc).

Google Docs can be shared through an invitation process. Google has free education service with limited capabilities. Teachers could set up a generic gmail account for all students to use and let them login under that account. Downside: you don't know who is doing what because they are logged in as the one account name. As a teacher, you could buy a domain from godaddy.com and that domain gives you a free email address. Set up the address as a 'catch-all' so no matter what email comes in, it goes to your default address. Students could log in as themselves@yourdomain.com. The catch-all grabs the verification emails, so the teacher would verify the accounts and therefore the students create their google accounts on the fly. The students could then use that address to login to ANY registration-based site! Very cool!

Google spreadsheets allow collaboration without requiring google accounts. Simply share with "no-login required" and allow people to edit the spreadsheet.

Google Form can be saved and shared then embedded into a site - could be a GREAT alternative to the crazy survey tool in SharePoint (you would need to have the 'embed code' hack for sharepoint before you could do that).

Google Maps allows you to find a location, click on it, then send that locatiion to your phone with phonoe number, etc! sweet!


1:00p - Kevin Honeycutt - Kids can make 110 decisions per minute - not always good ones.  Need mentors.  That is what we do. 

Jeff Hawkins "On Intelligence" book.  Start with biological intelligence and move to artificial intelligence.

Talk to the tech, but stay one Google search ahead.  You want to unblock Skype? Ask if it is something that can be done, while showing an example of how another district is already doing.

Got a kid that doesn't get it?  Hand the teacher technology the student can do over and over until they get it.  Podcasting, videocasting, etc.  Doesn't have to be great at first, just do it.

Open school of Utah - laptop to student,  kids get four years all online/youtube/etc.  How do we leverage technology.

two teachers in a tent. rest of teachers in lab.  kids crash with only technology. "we're cold" "we're hungry" "i think my leg is broke" - how do we help them?  research by the lab teachers to help those in the tent!  He uses a script, crisis-oriented.

Find a funny video, find one that teachees something you want to learn, find a video that would be good for kids to learn.

How do we tame the tool?  Preview the video before you show it!  Check the site before you take the kids there.  How about a sandbox? Several teachers try and learn and come with best practices to the rest of the teachers.  Small way in for technology and can work with the local tech guy.

Google docs - Web 2.0 and why? http://tinyurl.com/nwmuje

"Charlie Bit Me" - Think before you act!

http://www.classroom20.com/ - professional learning network of teachers.  self-directed staff development.

http://www.kevinhoneycutt.org/ - TONS of resources in the "Raid My Files" section!

AR-Media plug-in for Google sketchup takes a printed page and shows a 3d image.  I believe it is the same technology Topps is using for their new 3d baseball cards.  Cool stuff!

Project-based learning - show off the artifacts!  Give a scenario and let the kids solve the problem - with tech, without tech, some combo!

We are all PLURKING!  Man, this is a great tool for collaboration and getting quick feedback and input.
http://www.plurk.com/ is the place to go! (www.plurk.com/davidinark) is my site.

We are getting all kinds of resources.  If these are not compiled anywhere, I will compile them into one place/post so you can check them out for yourself!

check this out: http://www.freemosquitoringtones.org/ - see which sounds YOU can hear!

Art Snacks - art lessons, etc. must ask to join: http://essdackartsnacks.ning.com/ - art work, lessons, recordings, videos and more.

http://www.ustream.tv/ can be used safely - create your own channel, embed the channel in a protected space (like Ning, etc).  This is streaming live from your laptop/desktop for free.

http://www.cafepress.com/ - kids create, sell items online with kids artwork!  Money comes to the school/class - art, economics, etc.

This is a video based on a song that Kevin wrote.  He sang the song ALONE with only a guitar.  he posted the song on Plurk.  His network of friends took the song, added children's voices and modified the vocal sounds a little, another added percussion instruments, and othhers shot the video.  The result is amazing:

Oct 7, 2009

Give it away, give it away, give it away now!

Yeap, you read it right.  I am giving it away!  Wait. What is "it?"  Well, I am giving away free copies of my book!  Okay, free copies of the ELECTRONIC version of my book.  Just go to http://stores.lulu.com/davidinark and click on the icon next to "Download for Free!"

Now, why would I give away my book?  Here's my thinking: I give away the PDF version so people can read the stories.  People that enjoy the stories will (hopefully) want the tangible book they can hold in their hands and read over and over again.  On the other hand, maybe no one will buy the hard copy now that I am giving away the PDF one.  That's okay, too.  I recently read something along the lines of: "Hey, if it goes viral and a million people are reading my book, I'll take that any day of the week. Period."  I have to agree.

I know some folks are planning to buy a hard copy to have me inscribe it, which I will happily do for anyone that sends me (or brings it to me if you live close enough) their copy of the printed book.  That is, the version you buy on LuLu with the cover and all. 

The goal for my writing and publishing the book was not to make a million dollars (though, hey, if it happens, I won't be complaining, you know what I mean?).  The goal was to take the leap and publish it.  Like letting a child go off on his own, I am setting my stories free, hoping they do well on their own.

Oct 5, 2009

Blue wires and blinking lights - Let the users help

I have several tech friends (some of whom read this, which will undoubtedly put me in the technological doghouse if they think I am referring to them.  Then again, if one feels the conviction...) that have a hard time "dealing" with users.  Why?  Mainly because the users don't know the technical terms for the equipment they use (or may have to look at).  The tech gets frustrated because the user isn't calling certain parts by their "right" names, and so they sound like they don't know what they are doing or what they're talking about when in reality, they know what they see, but just are educated in the terminilogy of networking, computers, etc.

Many techs, and they know who they are but won't admit it and generally work for telephone support, forget that they were in the same position as the average user.  Over the years, through training, whatever, the tech has acquired the necessary vocabulary, but most folks do not.  For me, it's the same thing as when I take my truck to the shop.  i have no idea what those folks are telling me when they use the "official" name for things, but I can tell them it looks like "this" or sounds like "that" and generally get the point across.  Same thing here.

Today, I got a phone call from a user that could not get online at her school.  From my desk, I was able to test the connection to the network and that was fine, so the issue was in that particular building.  She had called me from the room with the "little box that has blue wires and lights on it."  That was all I needed.

The conversation went something like this:
Me: Okay, do you see numbers by the lights on the little box?

Her: Yes. Only #2 is blinking.  #1,3,6,7,8 are solid and #4 and 5 are not lit up.  Wait, one of them is orange, but the rest are green.

Me: Okay, have you tried unplugging the power to the box?

Her: Yes.  I did that and when it came back on, the same lights were lit or unlit as before.

Me: Okay, tell me which numbers have blue wires going to them.

Her: Well, #1 has a gray wire and it is lit up (meaning the light).  There is no wire in #2 or #7, but they have lights.  #4 and #5 have wires but no lights.

Me: Okay, one of the wires should lead to a little black box near the wall.  The black box has an orange wire attached to it. Do you see that?

Her: Yes.  it has six lights.  All the lights on the orange wire side are lit or blinking green or orange.  On the blue wire side, there is a light by "ACT" but no lights by "LINK" or (I cant remember the other indicator now that I'm typing this out, but that's not important)

Me: Okay.  That tells me exactly what I need to know!  There is a problem with the switch (pause) the box with the blue wires.  I'll contact the tech (who was out at training/meetings today) and see if I can just swap out the part and get you connected.  You've been a great tech troubleshooter!  Thank you!
Notice the only time I used any kind of technical term was at the end where I used the word "switch" to describe the equipment.  That was me thinking out loud.  I caught myself and used the terms she had been using with me.  Notice, I also took the time to thank HER for helping me.  She now knows the term for the little box (switch), and she may or may not ever use that again.  But more importantly for getting her back online, we used plain english terms to get the job done.

I have never understood why people in some positions (not just tech either!) feel the need to belittle and berate the people they are supposed to be 'helping' just because that person doesn't know the correct words to use.  Instead of making the user feel stupid, EDUCATE the user.  Start off in language they can understand and relate to, then teach them (without making them feel stupid) what the pieces and parts are called - IF NECESSARY.  Sometimes, it will never matter again, and so if the person doesn't need to know and doesn't care to learn the names, then move along.  Don't take it personally.

Shan (and every other teacher I encounter) uses terms for things that I have no idea what she's talking about.  But, if I have a question about it, she'll explain it to me in terms I do understand.  Same thing with the truck, same thing with injection-based molded plastic parts (okay, I made that up and have no idea if that is even a real term, but you get the idea, I'm sure).

Oct 4, 2009

SharePoint, a Chair Party, and Sporting 3D Glasses

On Wednesday, I worked with Doug at Prescott Schools.  We took care of a couple of work order-related issues, then went back to work on their upcoming SharePoint launch.  The experience has given me a huge insight into the workings of SharePoint theme and CSS styles, etc.

Thursday had me prepared to pull/run network cabling through the ceilings of Bradley Elementary School.  However, when I got there, that project was put on hold.  So, instead, I helped knock out work orders.  Many of the work orders are related to the connectivity issues at the Elementary building, so once we have that fixed, those will be taken care of.  The other work orders dealt with issues at Middle  and High School.  Because these were things that occur at many districts, I opted to jot down my thoughts and findings at the tech blog we host at work http://techblog.k12.ar.us/.

I planned to use Friday to set up and install some new computers at the office.  All was going well until I talked with Lindy (my 'big' boss, the Director). She informed me that we would be having a "chair party" Friday afternoon.  What is a chair party?  That is where we round up as many able bodies as we can to assemble the new chairs Lindy ordered for the new building.  We have about 90 in all, I think.  The group that we managed to cobble together included Lynne, Gina, Vicki, Lindy, Karen, Judy, John, myself and I'm sure at least another person or two.  In the two and half hours we assembled chairs, we managed to put together about 32 chairs.  Not bad at all.  Once we found the groove, it actually wasn't too bad.

On Saturday, we had been invited to go hang out with Michelle, Greg, Sarah and Jessica!  We had a GREAT time!  Greg grilled Hawaiian chicken, pork chops, ribs, and brats.  We also had baked beans, mac-n-cheese, salad, and cookies.  We spent the evening talking, laughing, and playing the Wii (or watching others playing!).

Shan iss watching the kids play Wii.  Dave is checking to see if texting has been turned on yet on his phone.  Not yet.  But soon hopefully!

A picture of Michelle taking a picture of Tyler.

Greg enjoying thhe great supper he cooked us!

Dave enjoying one of the cookies!

Sarah and Tyler playing the Wii.  Tyler might win if he would just open his eyes...

Michelle having fun figuring out Toy Story Mania in 3D!

Shan and Michelle team up in TSM3D!

Dave is concentrating too hard...

Greg sporting the 3D specs during his turn at TSM3D.

The kiddos are hanging out!

Michelle and Greg are swinging the remotes to win points!

A trio of trouble...

Emily is jamming out in 3D!

Chillin, textin, 3D-in'

By the end of the night, Greg had to help Jessica put a smile on her face. :-)